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Unintentional state policies closed doors of opportunities
Private sector involvement a must for North-East growth

Secretary General of the Government Peace Secretariat Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha said the government was anxious to develop the infrastructure base that would enable the private sector play a greater role in the country’s economy because it is capable of providing opportunities sans discrimination.

"A lot of the country’s problems happened because we treated a community badly, although it was not intentional, by not giving opportunities for them to grow when the state devised policies which seemed to benefit the majority," Prof. Wijesinha told a conference last Monday.

"In 1972 the state standardised university admission requirements and this took away diverse opportunities from the people of (the North and East). Opportunities were closed to them completely. This is like a house without doors. This was the genesis of bitterness of the LTTE, although their methods are not justified," he said.

Prof. Wijesinha said these policies which brought problems to the country could be reversed by the private sector.

"The state needs to be mindful when implementing policies it thinks is for the good of the majority if we are to avoid any problems. We have a private sector that is vibrant and it is in a position to provide diverse opportunities and problems of this nature will not happen with the private sector," he said.

Dr Wijesinha said the government was mindful of the private sector’s role in this regard.

"The government is anxious to get the infrastructure development going so that the private sector will be better enabled to do their part," he said.

The government’s efforts to bring about development to the people who have been denied opportunities for so long will heavily rely on the private sector.

"If we are going to take advantage of the opportunities that are now open to us to as a result of the defeat of terrorism, we will need the private sector," Prof. Wijesinha said.

He pointed out that after the university standardisation in 1972, many who would have gone to university could not do so, but because they were able to gain employment in the private sector they did much better, earning more than their academic peers did.

Prof. Wijesinha believes this could be replicated in the North and East.

"After the economy opened up in 1977 many believed the private sector was all about trade but this is not the case. The private sector is also involved in services and plays a great role in developing the country’s human resources capabilities," he said.

Prof. Wijesinha said the private sector should exploit the enabling environment in the North and East to grow their businesses.

"While exploiting the advantages, remember the people who did not have opportunities to take advantage of for far too long," he said.

Prof. Wijesinha was speaking at a conference, organised by the Business for Peace Alliance (BPA).

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